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Baby Born With HIV Apparently Cured, Say Scientists

Posted by on Mar. 3, 2013 at 5:59 PM
  • 40 Replies

Baby Born With HIV Apparently Cured, Say Scientists


WASHINGTON -- A baby born with the AIDS virus appears to have been cured, scientists announced Sunday, describing the case of a child from Mississippi who's now 2 1/2 and has been off medication for about a year with no signs of infection.

There's no guarantee the child will remain healthy, although sophisticated testing uncovered just traces of the virus' genetic material still lingering. If so, it would mark only the world's second reported cure.

Specialists say Sunday's announcement, at a major AIDS meeting in Atlanta, offers promising clues for efforts to eliminate HIV infection in children, especially in AIDS-plagued African countries where too many babies are born with the virus.

"You could call this about as close to a cure, if not a cure, that we've seen," Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, who is familiar with the findings, told The Associated Press.

A doctor gave this baby faster and stronger treatment than is usual, starting a three-drug infusion within 30 hours of birth. That was before tests confirmed the infant was infected and not just at risk from a mother whose HIV wasn't diagnosed until she was in labor.

"I just felt like this baby was at higher-than-normal risk, and deserved our best shot," Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi, said in an interview.

That fast action apparently knocked out HIV in the baby's blood before it could form hideouts in the body. Those so-called reservoirs of dormant cells usually rapidly reinfect anyone who stops medication, said Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins Children's Center. She led the investigation that deemed the child "functionally cured," meaning in long-term remission even if all traces of the virus haven't been completely eradicated.

Next, Persaud's team is planning a study to try to prove that, with more aggressive treatment of other high-risk babies. "Maybe we'll be able to block this reservoir seeding," Persaud said.

No one should stop anti-AIDS drugs as a result of this case, Fauci cautioned.

But "it opens up a lot of doors" to research if other children can be helped, he said. "It makes perfect sense what happened."

Better than treatment is to prevent babies from being born with HIV in the first place.

About 300,000 children were born with HIV in 2011, mostly in poor countries where only about 60 percent of infected pregnant women get treatment that can keep them from passing the virus to their babies. In the U.S., such births are very rare because HIV testing and treatment long have been part of prenatal care.

"We can't promise to cure babies who are infected. We can promise to prevent the vast majority of transmissions if the moms are tested during every pregnancy," Gay stressed.

The only other person considered cured of the AIDS virus underwent a very different and risky kind of treatment – a bone marrow transplant from a special donor, one of the rare people who is naturally resistant to HIV. Timothy Ray Brown of San Francisco has not needed HIV medications in the five years since that transplant.

The Mississippi case shows "there may be different cures for different populations of HIV-infected people," said Dr. Rowena Johnston of amFAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. That group funded Persaud's team to explore possible cases of pediatric cures.

It also suggests that scientists should look back at other children who've been treated since shortly after birth, including some reports of possible cures in the late 1990s that were dismissed at the time, said Dr. Steven Deeks of the University of California, San Francisco, who also has seen the findings.

"This will likely inspire the field, make people more optimistic that this is possible," he said.

In the Mississippi case, the mother had had no prenatal care when she came to a rural emergency room in advanced labor. A rapid test detected HIV. In such cases, doctors typically give the newborn low-dose medication in hopes of preventing HIV from taking root. But the small hospital didn't have the proper liquid kind, and sent the infant to Gay's medical center. She gave the baby higher treatment-level doses.

The child responded well through age 18 months, when the family temporarily quit returning and stopped treatment, researchers said. When they returned several months later, remarkably, Gay's standard tests detected no virus in the child's blood.

Ten months after treatment stopped, a battery of super-sensitive tests at half a dozen laboratories found no sign of the virus' return. There were only some remnants of genetic material that don't appear able to replicate, Persaud said.

In Mississippi, Gay gives the child a check-up every few months: "I just check for the virus and keep praying that it stays gone."

The mother's HIV is being controlled with medication and she is "quite excited for her child," Gay added.

by on Mar. 3, 2013 at 5:59 PM
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Replies (1-10):
by Platinum Member on Mar. 3, 2013 at 6:07 PM

The baby may well have sero-converted without all this poisonous treatment. 

It's happened regularly since the 80's.  Nothing new. 

Here's something I saw:

by Bronze Member on Mar. 3, 2013 at 6:07 PM

I hope this child stays well and virus free.  If this is truly a cure, that's a miracle many have prayed for for years.


by Bazinga! on Mar. 3, 2013 at 6:10 PM


by Member on Mar. 3, 2013 at 6:11 PM
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by Ruby Member on Mar. 3, 2013 at 6:15 PM

That's awesome and so hopeful!

by MrsSilverusSnape on Mar. 3, 2013 at 6:45 PM

I remember from my time working with HIV/AIDS patients (YEARS AGO) That most babies test positive for the HIV Virus when they are born however its not the actual virus but the Antibodies that shows in the test (a false pos i guess) I don't know how I feel about this.. I hope that in the end the child is ok and will live a long happy life.

by Gina on Mar. 3, 2013 at 8:25 PM

 I think that this is fabulous news, and I hope they continue to pursue it to save as many babies as they can from being infected.

by Member on Mar. 3, 2013 at 8:31 PM
It's great news... But I can't help it but think... Is this the first time this medications were used or were they tested before on human subjects? If not? Then does that mean that the baby was an experiment that "hurray" it worked out well? What would have happened if it didn't work? Could we have heard about either way? Idk how I feel about it...
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by Thatwoman on Mar. 3, 2013 at 9:22 PM

The first time I heard of a case like this it was the early 90s. I don't think this is the first time.

by Satan on Mar. 3, 2013 at 11:25 PM

Quoting TranquilMind:

The baby may well have sero-converted without all this poisonous treatment. 

It's happened regularly since the 80's.  Nothing new. 

Here's something I saw:

Are you a doctor? 

Then shut the f*ck up.

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